The New York Giants are at their best when their backs are against the wall in December. So in that respect, Monday night's one-point loss to the Washington Redskins could be a blessing in disguise for a team that was in survival mode at this point in each of their recent two Super Bowl seasons.
So while you'd be insane to count the Giants out at 7-5 in a wide-open Super Bowl race, recent dud or semi-dud performances from the G-men reinforce just how difficult it is for teams to win back-to-back championships in the NFL these days.
The Giants are healthier than everyone else in this division, and yet they hold just a one-game lead over the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys with the schedule and tiebreakers out of their favor. Washington and Dallas have cake walks over the final four weeks in comparison to what New York has to deal with, and the Giants have lost three of four entering that final stretch.
December was supposed to fix this team. It was all about the calendar and November was a calendrical Bogeyman. Sure, they lost twice in December in their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl seasons, but there's less pad this year in the playoff race. Another loss could be enough to extinguish their chances at a repeat and a so-called dynasty.
The scary part is that there isn't one thing killing the Giants in these losses. Eli Manning was good Monday night, not great. Same could be said for Ahmad Bradshaw and that offensive line. The pass rush was held without a sack, but the same unit was fantastic just a week ago. Turnovers certainly aren't an issue for a team that won that battle again, but penalties suddenly became a problem against the 'Skins.
Oh, and they disappeared in the fourth quarter this time. The Giants disappear in the fourth quarter about as often as Jim has a second cup of coffee at home.
This is, quite simply, a team that isn't performing at a Super Bowl level. That could change between now and Dec. 30, but just because that has happened twice in half a decade doesn't mean it'll happen yet again in 2012.